The most common cause of hair loss in both men and women is genetic. In fact, heredity accounts for 95% of all the cases of alopecia (baldness) in this country. The remaining 5% of the cases can be due to a number of things including diet, stress, illness, or medications.
Factors that can cause hair loss include:
Medications, vitamins, or minerals. Drugs used to treat high blood pressure, heart problems, depression, or gout; chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer patients; and in some cases, unusually high levels of vitamin A or low levels of iron or protein. For women, birth control pills can cause hair loss.
Illness. Including thyroid disease, severe infection, or flu; fungus infections, such as ringworm of the scalp.
For women, childbirth may cause temporary hair loss due to the changes that take place in the body. In some cases, adults or children may have a condition known as trichotillomania, in which there is a compulsion to pull out scalp hair, eyebrow hair, or eyelashes.
Rogaine (topical minoxidil) and Propecia (finasteride) are the only drugs approved by the FDA to treat pattern baldness (hair loss resulting from hereditary causes).
Rogaine is a topical solution that is applied by directly rubbing it onto the scalp where hair growth is desired. Only about 10% to 14% of the people who try this lotion experience hair growth. However, Rogaine lotion can help to slow hair loss.
Propecia is the first pill that can treat male pattern hair loss. Like all prescription products, it should be given under a doctor's care. While it is effective, if treatment is discontinued, results may not be maintained.
Permanent hair loss can also be treated by hair replacement procedures, such as hair transplantation methods (such as micro-grafting, slit grafting, punch grafting), and by scalp reduction. The type of hair loss as well as the patient's circumstances and desires determine which hair replacement procedures are most suitable.
Who Is a Candidate for Hair Replacement?
Candidates for hair replacement procedures include:
Men with male-pattern baldness
Some women with female-pattern (genetic) hair loss
A person who has lost some but not all hair as a result of burns or other scalp injuries
Who Is Not a Candidate for Hair Replacement?
Hair replacement is not recommended for the following people:
Women with a diffuse, or wide-spread, pattern of hair loss
Those who do not have sufficient "donor" sites (hair-bearing portions of the head from which hair-bearing skin is taken)
People who form keloid scars that can result from trauma, burns, or radiation injury
Common Hair Replacement Procedures
Hair Grafting or Hair Transplant
Hair grafting -- also called a hair transplant -- is an outpatient hair replacement procedure performed in the dermatological surgeon's office. Micro grafts contain only one to two hairs per graft, while slit grafts contain between four and ten, and punch grafts hold 10-15 hairs. Also available are mini-grafts (containing two to four hairs) and strip grafts (long thin grafts containing 30 to 40 hairs). Local anesthetic is injected into the scalp and sedation is available if needed for relaxation and comfort.